Even when you have the best intentions, the words you choose to make a point still matter quite a bit. In Australia, liberal Senator David Leyonhjelm was trying to "promote the value of migration and multiculturalism" during a speech on the Senate floor. His repeated references to "young brown men," however, somewhat undercut his sentiment, and has resulted in backlash from his fellow lawmakers.
Leyonhjelm thanked immigrants for "turning up their sleeves" in jobs "many other Aussies would turn up their noses at, or would not turn up at all," saying:
"Let me say thank you to Australia's young brown men."
@SBSNews @DavidLeyonhjelm @7NewsSydney (1/2)If you are a well traveled guy then you should know that these brown me… https://t.co/lxD3xdxFT0— Mandeep Singh (@Mandeep Singh) 1544008937.0
"They drive me in their Ubers and taxis. They deliver my online purchases, my groceries and my pizza. And they serve me at my local 7-Eleven, at my local service station, and my local restaurants. Many of these young brown men have only been in Australia for a decade or so, and they are giving it go, just like previous generations of young migrants."
Right-wing senator praises migrants for 'delivering his pizzas' www.youtube.com
@SBSNews Well Mr Leyonhjelm I think you sound a bit silly. If you are trying to get "The young brown Men" on sid… https://t.co/Y1tqJEzQkl— Terri Bennet (@Terri Bennet) 1543956457.0
Leyonhjelm also argued that many of these immigrants are over-qualified for the jobs they hold, and that the "brown pay gap," continues to oppress minority groups though these workers continue on "without whinging." He brought home the point by saying:
"Australia may be squandering the talent pool of its young brown men and women."
@workmanalice Note: the phenomenon he is talking about - migrant overqualification - is real. At an office I was wo… https://t.co/b9SWDuic24— David Walker (@David Walker) 1543999129.0
The Green party's Mehreen Faruqi ("who migrated to Australia from Pakistan in 1992"), said that she she "would like to give Senator Leyonhjelm the benefit of the doubt in being sincere about his concern about migrants but condescending speeches don't help." Faruqi told SBS:
"Migrants aren't sitting here plugging away passively waiting for the world to change, we are actively challenging racism and demanding our rights."
@SBSNews Does he actually listen to himself? Or is he just totally oblivious that one of those 'brown men' might be… https://t.co/nGuZEPLlHj— Silma Ihram (@Silma Ihram) 1543994289.0
Tim Lo Surdo, a spokesman for Democracy in Colour, an anti-racism advocacy group, also thought Leyonhjelm's comments were ultimately misguided:
"A third of Australia's temporary migrant workers are paid less than half the minimum wage. It is a crisis. But those same workers, they are fighting back. To suggest that that work's not been happening, or that they need some sort of white saviour like Senator Leyonhjelm to swoop in and save the day, is not true. And it's very condescending, it's very patronising, and it makes invisible all of that work that is being done right now."
Dear Senator David Leyonhjelm, this young brown man is a poet, author of two books, and a doctoral candidate at Wes… https://t.co/c8Csys3uiN— Omar Sakr (@Omar Sakr) 1543977155.0
Leyonhjelm likely torpedoed any goodwill in the Senate after a recent incident where, during a Senate debate, he yelled out at a female Seantor "Stop shagging men, Sarah!" He would later refuse to withdraw the remarks, though he claimed he spoke the words aloud without shouting them.
Twitter put the Senator straight with more than a little bit of shade.
@SBSNews Many brown consultants, surgeons, medical doctors, nurses, allied health staff at the hospital I work at.— ScoMo free Zone (@ScoMo free Zone) 1543959773.0
@workmanalice Dave is just too full of himself to be an effective advocate for social justice— Michael Lodge (@Michael Lodge) 1544143162.0
@Prashanth_Rajan @SBSNews @SBS It isn't true that they are all brown though. And their skin is irrelevant.— No Whey José Ⓥ (@No Whey José Ⓥ) 1544008964.0
@SBSNews Dave, they don't give you check ups, don't design buildings you work in, don't teach your kids, don't sit… https://t.co/CK6vUvUmWP— Fred Rowan (@Fred Rowan) 1543976072.0
@SBSNews They’re also your doctors, lawyers, accountants, police... firies... paramedics... what a patronising too… https://t.co/VtRepV4CjU— knifey (((cypher))) (@knifey (((cypher)))) 1543973093.0
@SBSNews @SBS What an arsehat.— Ned Cutcher (@Ned Cutcher) 1543960544.0
@SBSNews @call_me_tomasso https://t.co/2krWPFJvG6— David Hibbard (@David Hibbard) 1543973470.0
It seems Senator Leyonhjelm has learned a lesson about choosing his words carefully. Hopefully it sticks.